About this time of year, seed catalogs begin showing up in the mail box.
The excitement of what to plant in your spring garden builds as you thumb through the colorful pages of a seed catalog. Johnny’s Seeds is one Maine supplier. Fedco is another, so is the Maine potato lady that all have a super Internet presentation to supply your garden seed.
Backyard gardening, not a large scale commercial farm acreage approach but a small square footage plot of dirt to work. The word garden, just what direction are you thinking of heading? Vegetable, flower, herb, fruit, plant pots, raised beds, patio gardens with window boxes?
Whatever you are planning to grow could involve transplanting from your indoor start. All you need is some reused milk cartons, a south facing glass exposure and large window sill. Or to set up the card tables covered with newspaper. And fill the peat pots with rich organic topsoil. Every garden is a new beginning of food or eye candy delight. Cooking in tandem with the garden seasons makes what you grow really sing.
Easy does it because if the garden scope is too large, good luck keeping up with weeding, feeding, watering, management of whatever you plant this spring. There is a trick to planning what is going to need this portion of the garden space to grow and be harvested just in time before something that blooms later moves into the same region.
Something too tall shielding the low to the ground vegetation from warm sunshine is not good planning. Knowing what grows in full sun or partial shade like kale, carrots means reading up on what each variety of seeds needs for ingredients. To flourish and be bountiful right?
How deep, how far to space the seeds? Gardening has a learning curve and you will definitely know if you did it wrong. Your crop yield will be the proof in your gardening to defend the plants from insects, animals along with your growing knowledge of soil science. Ever flamed parsnips? It is a delicate process with the gas torch. And why they fetch such a high price because of the difficulty getting them through all the steps from seed to the final garden harvest.
Guidance for your gardening on whatever scope is available from the Cooperative Extension folks at the University of Maine system.
A helping hand in your gardening that may pick up speed to become a self sustaining commercial agricultural enterprise is always on tap to serve you to from the neat folks at MOFGA.
My Aunt Molly passed away this year. She lived on a family farm. And every time I slow down to stop at the corner she lived on, I look over to the garden spot she pridefully tended. There was a scare crow to help the grow with the many flashing, moving in the breeze tin plates waving on some fishing line. A lone chair sat waiting for use in the center of her vegetable garden. Where she could immerse, sit for a spell surrounded by the spoils of her green thumb abilities. Aunt Molly was the most dedicated vegetable and flower gardener I ever met.
She would be wearing a floppy hat to shield her from the sunshine beaming down from overhead her Maine garden domain. Her cat and dog would visit her to as she bent over to pull a weed here, to transplant a seedling there. Aunt Molly would spend hours in her pretty impressive flower garden beds whenever not toiling in the vegetable garden soil. And around her farmstead home, gorgeous flower beds would provide the kind of beauty only Mother Nature creates with patience and sunshine, soft rain water. And don’t forget, with a little help from the chirping birds and busy bees. Who both have a hand in the planting, the pollenation of whatever pops up for bright green shades of chutes from the dark brown rich Earth soil.
Aunt Molly was good friends with Sam Gervais who shared her joy of flower beds. Who did his part to beautify his North Road location where his motel was located for sleepy travelers to lay their head in the bed.
The many local gardeners in a small Maine town are like an orchestra tuning up with color and vegetation that add sparkle to the surroundings. In spring, the local greenhouses in small town Maine communities are bustling with commerce. As flats of green peppers, beef stake tomatoes and anything not direct seed planted in the garden is paid for and carted out to the cars and trucks. Placed in pick up beds, carefully lowered into car trunks, on placed on the floor in the backseats of the rows and rows. Of vehicles who all bee line to the local producers of garden seedlings. And share what they are planting again or trying for the first time in their Maine gardens.
Ever plant garlic, dill, cilantro, bee baum, eggplant, whatever catches your eye in the new edition seed catalog. That causes you to stray away from just big yellow, or silver and gold ears shucked off the stalks of corn? Or pole beans, leaf lettuce, radishes, beets, turnips, anything from the squash family or for cucumbers? Like wandering into the tall aisles at Lowes or Home Depot, where the choices are so vast. The seed catalog selection variety of even just one vegetable, fruit or flower type can seem like too much!
Have you taken a soil test of your garden plot to know about the soil amendments needed to make it the most productive seed bed possible? Do you use black plastic to help your chili peppers get the warm as toast soil reception needed to grow grow grow big, straight and strong?
Hats for your transplants that look like the band Devo performing until they harden off. Protecting tender, spindly seedlings from the wind. Transplants do not like the summer breeze or cold spring gusts of wind. But a week or two with protection is all it usually takes. Locally it is pretty neat to drive by a garden tended to the hilt where everything is weed free, in perfect precision rows without grass slowing down the garden growing process. You can spot your sharpest gardeners easily from their roadside displays. It is sad to see a garden lose the battle of grass and weed control.
Do you think of what attracts the bees, butterflies and hummingbirds when making your garden seed selection?
What kind of carrots do you buy seed for? It all ties in with the length of your growing season, the menu you serve up in your Maine family household doesn’t it? Ask the chef what she or he prefers for fresh vegetables sliced and diced to slide off a cutting board into the boiling pots arranged around the stove top.
Have you ever canned stewed tomatoes, put up bread and butter pickles to store on the root cellar shelves? To draw from slowly over the winter months. While waiting for another spring to show up on the calendar to being again the replenishing of your garden plot that all starts with seedlings.
Have you ever weighed out, bought a brown paper bag pound or two of onion bulbs to systematically plant in a row and experienced crows, heckle and jeckle blackbirds turning them upside down? Replanting them for you the wrong way. Remember raccoons or black bears or deer visiting your garden produce center just before it ripened? They have perfect timing and know how to select tender veggies and fruits. To help themselves to a little snack late at night as they party hearty in your vegetable garden. Where you provide the fresh veggie platter for the wildlife?
Lots of critters can not resist the leaf lettuce, the first to show up and one of the last to leave the garden at last call. They don’t need to add sugar like we do. Or splash on the vinegar to bathe the cucumber slices completely. But nothing compares to the kale, their hearty cabbage cousins who can hunker down under a blanket of new fallen garden snow.
With Maine vegetable gardens there is always enough to go around and half the joy in backyard micro farming is sharing whatever matures over the summer and into the fall months.
Just one hill of zucchini please and thank you. And keep what you pick small and tender. Not the heavy club left on the vine too long. Your neighbors, family members, co-workers and the elderly in your life especially really appreciate whatever you deliver to them that was grown in your own unique garden operation. A box of raspberries, a rounded high quart of blueberries, a heaping container of cultivated or wild strawberries. Your drop off of a big canvas sack or box of heirloom apples from your private orchard is most appreciated. Garden bounty is the best nutritious gift anyone can give or receive. A fresh picked and assorted all natural flower arrangement brightens any desk, bureau, kitchen or dining room table. The colors, the fragrance, the textures, the floral arrangement put together just so is the DIY spice of life.
Some would argue don’t bother tying up space and time with tending hills of potatoes in your garden space. Same with broccoli. Because there is so much planted when you live in a county like Aroostook that produces lots of both. Especially spud acreages of all varieties. That are free for the foraging if you start the healthy habit of gleaning a farm field with permission at fall harvest time. True, there is nothing like new Cobbler or Green Mountain potatoes. Performing at meal time with fresh peas, lathered in local milk to tickle the taste buds that you grew yourself is there? Anyone getting hungry to garden in Maine for fresh food you had a hand in creating? More on food hubs, you are what you eat.
Sitting in a rocking chair in a Maine farm home kitchen with a wood stove working its magic. A cup of fresh hot coffee or steaming tea nursed on while leafing through the glossy four color pages of the latest new vegetable or flower seed catalog.
Are you in that moment and thinking about spring planting and adding new varieties, retaining old favorites and pondering with just where to put them in your private garden? And how big, how many gardens, what type do you ride herd on that starts with the dreams planted inside your head when the mailman delivers the latest seed catalogs to your doorstep? The best ten items to grow in your garden crops for beginners.
Grow you own sure beats pushing the expensive wire cart with the one squeaky difficult wheel down at the Piggly Wiggly foodliner. Maine, it’s all about living outdoors, the wide open space, the fresh air, clean water and simple pleasures. Like digging in your garden soil. Getting down on your knees and living the experience of gardening from A to Z. Knowing exactly what you are serving up each meal. Where the food came from and no chemicals were used on the garden items placed on your table. Used for feeding your family that is all natural and home grown special.
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MOOERS REALTY 69 North ST Houlton ME 04730 USA